What is amaranth, what are the nutritional benefits, and how do you cook it like a pro? In this article, we will discuss what amaranth is, its history, the various types, (such as amaranth grains), and its many amazing health benefits.
Amaranth is a perennial plant that is often cultivated as a leaf vegetable. It can grow between 3 – 8 feet tall and is also known as “pigweeds.” A species of the amaranth genus called the “amaranth grain” can be compared to maize or rice. The grain was first consumed over 8000 years ago by the Inca, Aztec, and Mayan civilizations. Amaranth was also used in religious ceremonies. It was lost for centuries and reintroduced to America in the 1970s.
Both the seeds and leaves of the amaranth are edible, with Amaranth grain described as having a nutty flavor. When cooked, both the grains and seeds are small, having a sheen.
Studies indicate amaranth has many health benefits. A review published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research found that “nonessential nutrients such as phytochemicals of quinoa and amaranth may also have potential health beneficial effects.” 
Cardiovascular disease benefits.
Consuming 18 ml of amaranth oil per day has been shown to have a “beneficial action” on Coronary Heart Disease and Hypertension. The same study found that amaranth oil decreases the amount of total cholesterol, LDL, VLDL, and triglycerides. 
Amaranth contains many nutrients the body needs to function efficiently. A Healthline Nutrition report notes one cup of cooked amaranth includes the following:
|Nutrient||Serving Size: One Cup|
|Manganese||105% of RDI|
|Magnesium||40% of RDI|
|Phosphorous||36% of RDI|
|Iron||29% of RDI|
|Selenium||19% of RDI|
|Copper||18% of RDI|
Amaranth contains high levels of magnesium, which among its many benefits, has been shown to enhance exercise performance by increasing glucose levels in the blood during exercise. 
Antioxidants are nutrients and enzymes that neutralize free radicles in the body. Also known as “free radical scavengers, they help to minimize the dangers they can do to the body. Inflammation is believed to play a role in the formation of many chronic diseases and other health issues. Researchers have discovered that amaranth contains antioxidants, noting its “valuable sources of antioxidants” during the vegetative and grain fill stages.  Preliminary studies also indicate eating a diet high in antioxidants could possible prevent oxidative damage. 
3. May Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s normal response to treating injuries and fighting infection. However, problems arise when the body’s inflammation defense system attacks healthy tissues and cells. This inflammation could increase the risk of having chronic diseases. Studies on amaranth found it to inhibit the signals that trigger inflammation in the body. 
4. High in Protein
One cup of cooked amaranth contains up to 9 grams of protein. Protein is essential for building muscle, healthy hair, skin, and bone health. Researchers have noted that low protein intake was linked to tumors in young adults, while older adults need adequate protein levels for longevity and healthy aging. 
5. May Reduce Cholesterol
A study on amaranth grain found it had an impact on the absorption of cholesterol and bile acids, cholesterol distribution, content, and biosynthesis in animal experiments. Preliminary studies indicate amaranth grain or oil “can lower cholesterol in animal models.” 
6. May Aid Weight Loss
The high protein and fiber content of amaranth may help with weight loss. Fiber moves slowly through the gastrointestinal tract, which could help stimulate feelings of fullness. Preliminary studies suggest obesity levels in the United States may decrease if the average daily fiber intake of 15 grams per day is increased to 25-30 grams per day. 
7. Supports Digestion
Amaranth’s high fiber content helps the body in several ways. It can support digestion by decreasing the risks of constipation—the fiber content keeping bowel movements regular. Poor digestion can have a direct impact on nutrient absorption as well, possibly leading to hormonal and nutritional imbalances. It is also a prebiotic, a nondigestible food product that stimulates the growth of good bacteria in the intestines. Good bacteria in the gut play a vital role in the harvest, storage, and expenditure of energy obtained from food. 
Gluten is a type of protein found in cereal grains. Nearly 86% of the protein in wheat is gluten. Symptoms of a gluten allergy can include bloating, heartburn, fatigue, anxiety, anemia, constipation, and others. Gluten sensitivity is linked to the autoimmune disorder celiac disease. Amaranth is gluten-free and has been shown to inhibit inflammation often triggered by autoimmune disorders. 
Amaranth vs. Quinoa
Quinoa is a plant in the amaranth family. Like amaranth, its seeds are edible and are packed with a similar amount of nutrients. While they look similar, there are a few distinct differences between the two: Amaranth grains are smaller, and quinoa has a bitter taste when compared to amaranth. Quinoa has to be rinsed many times to remove the bitter taste, while amaranth only has to be rinsed once.
Amaranth has many nutrients and health benefits that make it an excellent addition to practically any diet. In this section, we will discuss the ways to cook amaranth, it’s taste and provides a healthy recipe to try.
Amaranth can be consumed instead of rice, oatmeal, or pasta. This ease of use can make it a healthier, nutritious alternative to using other more popular dishes.
Amaranth is prepared in a similar manner as rice or pasta, which is by bringing water to a boil, then add 1 cup of dry amaranth seeds. The heat is then lowered, and the contents are stirred. The pot is then covered and simmered for 15-20 minutes or until the water is absorbed. In addition to being eaten by itself, amaranth can be used to thicken soups, stews, jellies, and sauces.
There are many ways to enjoy amaranth. Amaranth can be added to a wide range of dishes as a complement or eaten alone.
Nutty Oat Grain Bars
- Two tablespoons amaranth
- 1 cup maple syrup
- Six large dates, pitted and chopped
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds (shelled)
- ½ cup raw almonds, pecans, walnuts hazelnuts or cashews
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups oats
- Two tablespoons butter (unsalted) or coconut oil (virgin)
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Coat loaf pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper (coat paper also)
- Bring dates and maple syrup to boil in a small saucepan, reduce heat to medium heat, often stirring until dates are soft (8-10 minutes)
- Remove from heat and stir in butter until melted
- Mash dates with a potato masher, fork, or blender until as smooth as possible
- Combine oats, amaranth, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and salt in a large bowl, then mix in date mixture until evenly coated
- Add ½ of the oat mixture into the pan, pressing firmly with a rubber spatula, then add the remaining oat mixture and tightly press into the pan
- Bake for 45-50 minutes
- Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices with a knife
What Does Amaranth Taste Like?
Amaranth has a slightly sweet, nutty taste. It can have a gelatin-like texture and has a slightly crunchier texture than steel-cut oats. It has a slightly stronger flavor than rice or oats and can vary between whole wheat and brown rice. Others have compared it to spinach.
How Do I Improve The Taste?
There are several ways to improve the taste of amaranth. For example, adding butter, ginger, cinnamon, yogurt or cranberry sauce can lighten the flavor, as well as give it an extra nutritional boost.
Should I Soak Amaranth Grains Before Cooking?
Some recipes advise soaking amaranth for 12 hours, but soaking isn’t necessary. Many choose to soak amaranth to remove some of the flavors and reduce the cooking time. Soaking can be accomplished with two parts warm water and one-part amaranth. To improve the pH of the soaking water, add one tablespoon of yogurt. The drained water will have nutrients in it that can be reused.
Is Amaranth Hard To Digest?
Amaranth can be hard to digest because they are seeds. Soaking it for 12 hours before cooking can help it be digested easier. It should also be noted that the high fiber content can have an impact on the ability to digest amaranth.
What About Sprouting Amaranth?
Amaranth has been grown and harvested for thousands of years. They can be grown both as a landscaping flower that can reach several feet tall. It can also be grown and cultivated as a gluten-free grain substitute.
Amaranth can be planted outdoors once soil temps reach 65°F or higher. Sprinkle over dirt and cover with a thin layer of topsoil. Amaranth can also be grown indoors in ¼ in soil. Water should be kept moist and given a few inches of water weekly. In addition to adequate water, amaranth also needs direct sunlight of 6 hours or more to grow.
Amaranth will harvest in 30-45 days. The leaves can be clipped or pulled up by the root. To prevent wilting, put in cold water or the refrigerator. When the leaves drop, the seeds are ready for harvest. After harvesting, place the seeds in an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place. Stored seeds can last more than a year.
Amaranth is an excellent substitute for grains. Thanks to its many health benefits as well as being gluten-free, amaranth can be a welcome addition to almost any diet.